The death of a 12-year-old girl in Kerala from rabies, despite having multiple inoculations of the vaccine, has raised questions on the efficacy of rabies vaccines in India and their availability.
What is ‘rabies’?
- Rabies is a disease that is caused by a family of viruses called the lyssaviruses and found in a range of mammals. The virus targets the central nervous system and is nearly 100% fatal to the host animal if it succeeds in infecting it.
- It is caused by a Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) virus that is present in the saliva of a rabid animal (dog, cat, monkey, etc).
- It is invariably transmitted following a bite of a rabid animal that leads to deposition of the saliva and the virus in the wound.
- The death invariably occurs in four days to two weeks due to cardio-respiratory failure.
- However, the time interval between the bite and occurrence of symptoms/signs of rabies i.e. incubation period varies from four days to two years or rarely even more.
- Thus, it is important to remove the virus from the wound as early as possible by immediately washing the wound with water and soap followed by application of antiseptics that reduce/eliminate chances of nerve infection.
- Though many animals from cats to crocodiles can be transmitters of the virus, it is most likely to spread to people from the bite of an infected dog or a cat as they are the most common pets.